News of Rwanda (Kigali)

Congo-Kinshasa: UN Refutes DR Congo Figures of Rwanda Special Forces

The UN headquarters in New York has confirmed that there were indeed "about 350" Rwandan Special Forces in eastern DRC, contrary to what was said by the Kinshasa government spokesman Lambert Mende that they were less than 100.

At a press conference on Sunday, which was redone on Monday, Mende angrily reacted to numbers provided by Rwandan officials after the Special Forces withdrew. They were said to have been 357 troops operating alongside a similar number of Congolese.

At UN HQ, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky, confirmed to Inner City Press online news service on Tuesday that the number was provided by the Congo's army (FARDC).

"Regarding your question on the information MONUSCO received about Rwandan Defense Force elements, we have been told that MONUSCO was informed by the FARDC that there were around 350 RDF elements," said Nesirky.

He was answering on behalf of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Affairs, which manages MONUSCO. The figure from the UN was provided by the Congolese army sometime back - meaning the UN has been aware of the presence of Rwanda Special Forces, just like Kinshasa but have feigned ignorance.

DRC spokesman Mende suggested at his press conference that many of those Rwanda forces withdrawing were simply coming from M23 rebels - amid international pressure on the Rwandan government.

The Special Forces were withdrawn on Saturday, a day following the first public revelation by Rwanda's Defense Minister, Gen James Kabarebe, about the Special Forces. He affirmed they had been there since March 2011 as part of joint Rwanda-DRC operations against Rwandan FDLR rebels.

As the Rwanda Special Forces withdrew, so did the Congolese counterparts, which have been moved to other places - most likely back to Kinshasa. The Rwanda troops reportedly walked more than 100km in a single day from their bases to the Rwandan border.

Meanwhile, reports from Rutchuru say the areas in which the Special Forces left, have been taken over by M23 rebels on one side, and FDLR and Mai Mai on the other. The three rebel groups are controlling different parts of the large area.

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